Other than meeting my wife and perhaps pay day, few moments compare to receiving complimentary "elite flier" upgrades or receiving those lovely lounge access invitations, even when flying coach. With that said, airlines certainly aren't making loyalty easy these days. Nearly every airline has managed to either devalue their miles, the ability to earn them or the ability to speak with someone when issues occur. When things become unbearable, as they have recently for many, it is important to know that there are other options. Money talks, and nothing talks louder than directly taking money out of your competitors pocket. It's a cold world but being an elite certainly has it's warming perks...
Airlines, whether publicly or not, are very often willing to offer a match, challenge or fast track to elite status. A status match is where you are granted elite status with a competing airline, comparable to that which you already have with your current airline, as a gesture of good will. The competing airline hope that in cases of frustration, the ability to retain elite status will be enough to ensure that you never set foot on your old carrier again and bring your business to them. For those without a current status who are looking to score some perks without all the leg work (like me) challenges and fast track opportunities are your answer. Do not ever let an elite status lapse before requesting to be matched. You must always leverage your status into a new status match while it is current. Previous statuses are of no interest to a potential matcher. Here are a few ways to make sure you are never left in the general boarding lane....
Status Match (Public):
Many airlines around the globe publicly offer status matches. To initiate a status match with the new airline you wish to fly, simply find the correct method of contact that the airline lists for matches (google search) or use StatusMatcher.com. In most cases, there are detailed instructions from the airline on exactly how to contact them, as well as what information to send. Generally, the request is to send them a copy (digital or mail) of your current account details and status level, as well as why you plan to switch and how much you plan to fly. The airline will proceed to contact you to finish processing your match and you will have elite status on the new airline in no time.
Status Match (Non Public):
Many Airlines including Virgin Atlantic do not publicly match status, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I have seen instances where readers have voiced their displeasure with an airline over social media to find other airlines reaching out to encourage "inquiring" about a match. If you are unhappy with your airline and have your eyes set on an airline who does not publicly match, email them. If you are an elite flyer and have a compelling case about putting money that was going to their competitor into their pockets, airlines listen and magic happens. Get in touch and make sure your request is at least responded to before giving up. A written and mailed letter is often the best answer here.
There is a third category for jumping ship (or creating a ship if you have no current elite status) and that is with airlines offering status challenges. A status challenge can be even more advantageous than a match if played correctly. In general, a status challenge is where you are given a certain amount of time to complete a certain amount of flying (varying by desired new tier) to convince the airline you are worth the free perks. Upon completion, you are awarded the status. If you are clever, wait to match until late June or early July. Airlines have their own cutoff dates but status challenges earned after those dates generally receive the status for the rest of the current year as well as the duration of the following year! Nice! Many great airlines including American offer this method of attaining status and it has proven to be a perfect opportunity if you have a peak travel period on your horizon.
Priority check in, priority boarding, lounge invitations, complimentary upgrades, these things can completely change a "day at the airport". It's important to remember that you often have vast choices in who you credit your flying to. Flying within one alliance often means that though you may be flying on up to 15 different carriers, all your miles and "elite qualifying" activity are being banked to one hub netting you miles, elite status.... and something to leverage when things go south.
Questions? Need Help? As always: firstname.lastname@example.org